There are no ‘official’ numbers on the number of missing persons in Iraq. According to several national and international sources, the number of missing persons is somewhere between 250,000 and over 1m.
Between 2003 and 2006, the Coalition Provisional Authority investigated and located over 200 mass graves thought to be related to crimes committed by the former regime throughout the country. The graves vary greatly in terms of size and complexity.
Under the occupation more people ‘disappeared’, many during the civil war, which saw horrific violence erupt between Sunni and Shia factions.
Now all combat troops have left Iraq, but for millions in Iraq the search for the ‘missing’ continues. And there is little help for the many still searching.
The International Commission of Missing Persons (ICMP) has been making some progress working with the Iraqi institutions responsible for locating, recovering and identifying victims of enforced disappearances and collecting information from surviving family members to develop a comprehensive agreement that will cover all aspects of the recovery and identification process.
This agreement is between the ICMP, the Ministry of Human Rights, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs and the Martyrs Foundation and relates to a specific three-year project that will investigate specific mass graves and surviving populations that can likely be linked to those graves.
To date, the ICMP has conducted basic forensic archaeology and anthropology training for 120 employees of the Ministry of Human Rights, Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs. The training has included employees from nearly every major religious and ethnic group in Iraq the Kurdistan Region. Over 20% of the students have been women.
But the work is slow, and little has been done to address the more senstive ‘disappearances’ which happened post-Saddam.
Too many people in Iraq are still searching for the peace that will only come when they can find and bury their ‘lost’ relative.